Call a Spade a Spade


What does Call a Spade a Spade mean?

To call a spade a spade is to tell something as it is.

It’s an idiom that is urging people to be blunt, straight and honest.

Since the 20th century, however spade started to gain a second, slurry meaning, tainting the expression with racism.


What's the origin of Call a Spade a Spade?

“Call a spade a spade” came into the English language through Nicholas Udall’s translation of Erasmus in 1542.

Erasmus himself took the created the expression through paraphrasing a Greek saying; “to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.”

Spread & Usage

How did Call a Spade a Spade spread?

It wasn’t until the 20th century, that white people in America started using the term spade for black people in a degrading manner.

This started taking off in the 1920’s, during the Harlem Renaissance, to mock upcoming black people.

“Call a spade a spade” is already a dying expression, that has been contaminated by offensive connotations and “tell it as it is” is much more effective in doing the idiom’s job without upsetting anybody.

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